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20 Feb 2024
6 mins
Nellisa and Farhan – Young Leaders on the Board

The Wavelink Maritime Institute not only nurtured a promising generation of quality seafarers, its Tripartite Nautical Training Award (TNTA) and Tripartite Engineering Training Award (TETA) programme have also minted dynamic young leaders to serve as office bearers in the SMOU Executive Committee (ExCo).

The Union’s recent constitutional amendment which ushered in a 40% representation of young leaders in the ExCo saw 33-year old Sister Siti Ainul Nellisa and 39-year old Brother Mohd Farhan elected as SMOU Vice President and SMOU Assistant General Secretary respectively.

Sister Nellisa, armed with a degree in business studies, made a career switch five years ago; trading her marketing and event management job for a life at sea. She is now on her way to become a 3rd Engineer.

“I’m very happy where I am. I love how close knitted the maritime industry is. I hope to be in this industry for a long time to come,” the TETA graduate says.

Second Officer Brother Farhan too is in this for the long haul and he sees mentoring junior cadets as a calling. “For Singapore Core to happen, we need Singapore seafarers. We are not gunning to be just average seafarers. We want to be developed as quality seafarers.”

While Sister Nellisa is the only seafarer in her family, Brother Farhan is surrounded by seafaring family members who have moulded him to be a strong advocate in building the Singapore Core.

Both Sister Nellisa and Brother Farhan are proud to be part of the SMOU family and set to pay it forward by serving in the SMOU leadership.

“SMOU is a union that walks the talk,” says Sister Nellisa. When the Union says “We CARE for: Your Welfare, Your Family, Your Employment, Your Education”, the slogan is translated into action.

“I have been a beneficiary many times over. During the Covid-19 pandemic, SMOU knew that quite a few of us needed part time jobs to get through. And the Union linked us to job opportunities and assisted us in very practical ways.”

Brother Farhan agrees. “During the pandemic, food and care kits were provided to our seafaring members who are serving stay home notice for their sign on and sign off. SMOU distinguished itself by going out of the way to keep the ties with the members strong and warm.”

To the two new office bearers, SMOU has done “an exceptional job in advocating and improving the welfare of seafarers”. By promoting industry collaboration, the Union is instrumental in assisting seafarers and also the shipping companies.

“SMOU has our back” is the message that the young leaders want to continue to uphold.


Navigating the Future

SV: What do you hope to bring to the SMOU leadership?

“The world is evolving so fast with technology advancing at a rapid speed. I feel that we need to constantly have a fresh look at issues so that we can provide a spectrum of solutions that are more relevant to the present age.

We are on the ground experiencing the same challenges in real time with the younger seafarers. We hope to incorporate their viewpoints when engaging the ExCo,” Sister Nellisa points out.

Brother Farhan seeks to generate deeper and more out of the box conversations at the leadership level. He explains, “The pool of seafarers in Singapore is small. Hence the knowledge and experience that we have is very valuable. We need to mine the expertise and utilise the assets to navigate the future. We need an integration of talents in order to advance.”


SV: Do you foresee any potential communication differences across the generation in the ExCo?

“We may have different viewpoints from time to time because we are at different stages of life with different needs, wants and exposure,” Sister Nellisa admits.

However, the gap can be narrowed by holding on to the core values of SMOU.

“SMOU values innovation and entrepreneurial thinking. We are constantly seeking new ideas. If the leaders, including the younger ones, approach suggestions and ideas with an open mind, we will move forward together.”

To navigate in future of work, SMOU needs both the tech-savvy mindset of the younger leaders and the stability and wisdom of the more senior leaders.

Brother Farhan foresees that fresh avenues of discussion will be opened up. In the face of rapid technological advancements and increasingly complex problems, it will be a case of “all hands on deck” to ride the waves.

“We are here to learn and to contribute,” he assures.

Regular dialogues and authentic conversations will be the way to go in order to engage the younger members.

“The younger generation values transparency and less top down,” Sister Nellisa adds on.

SV: What are some issues or reflections that are close to your heart?

“What if another pandemic hits us? Are we ready to be there for our members? What more can we do?” Brother Farhan ponders.

“What can we do about cybersecurity? It costs millions for dollars for the shipping companies when the IT system gets hacked. Besides common knowledge on how to surf the internet safely, to be a good officer, we need to learn how to be digitally vigilant and maritime cyber compliant. There is also the whole decarbonisation exercise to grapple with. At the end of the day, it is about upgrading our skills sets continuously. How can we harness technology to enhance the way we reach out, train and sail.”

For Sister Nellisa, the decision to bring back the TETA and TNTA program was a great move and she hopes more women will join the seafaring industry.

“The maritime industry will continue to be a male dominated industry for a long time to come. I’ve met a lot of my male counterparts who are very encouraging and they support this movement of more females joining the ranks. We have Wi-Fi on board. The engine room is well equipped and more advanced now, requiring less strenuous, manual labour. Female in the seafaring community is very small. Everyone is very supportive, encouraging and very willing to share knowledge.”

She observes that the young cadets will need guidance and support every step of the way. “They may not have the foresight to persevere and choose short term gains as a result. Delaying gratification is pivotal to success. This is the message that needs to go out,” she elaborates.

Farhan too is elated that the Union is investing in developing the Singapore Core. “What we need is a more robust way of evaluating the applicants and once they are in, we go all out to mentor, encourage and support them. I hope that we younger leaders will set a good example and inspire them.”

Towards the future

When talking about SMOU 75th Anniversary in 2026 and beyond, one can sense the excitement in both Sister Nellisa and Brother Farhan.

“We all have a stake in the making of SMOU,” Brother Farhan exclaims. “We are filled with hope and determination and grateful to the SMOU members for believing in us and trusting us to contribute.”

Sister Nellisa concludes well when she says with gusto, “We are moving on!”